The Future Of The Great British High Street
The British High Street has been experiencing a downward trend in recent years. This is in part due to the increase in consumers shopping online, which was accelerated in 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic meaning that many businesses were forced to close physical locations and concentrate on their online visibility.
In this week’s blog, we will be looking at the British High Street, its future, and how they can adapt to succeed.
The pandemic has seen the decline of the British High Street accelerate as constant lockdowns and restrictions crippled footfall. Then, 2021 saw many well-known High Street names including Marks and Spencer’s, Debenhams and John Lewis cut back on their physical high street presence as they dealt with the fallout of the pandemic.
Add into the mix sharp rental increases and the boom in online shopping and it comes as no surprise that empty shops in Britain’s high streets are currently at their highest level since 2016. And interestingly, London is currently the epicentre for this decline.
But despite this, it does not mean it is over for our traditional High Street. Reports and surveys have revealed that for our High Street’s to survive they will need to evolve once again, much as they have done in the past, and perhaps look at the past to help in planning future evolution.
What is the Future?
The night-time economy is a key factor in the survival of any town centre or high street. With many consumers looking for more places to eat, drink and socialise even more so post-pandemic. There is also the beauty industry. Hairdressers, nail bars and spas are continuing to thrive even during these tough times.
In part due to the online revolution, many consumers now want to feel a connection with the brands they purchase from, they want to feel like they are buying from a company or person who shares their values and ethos. This way of purchasing could even see the return of the “post war” independently owned shops that sell locally sourced produce and products. In fact over recent years, the number of independently owned high street businesses has increased by 3% across the country.
Pop-Up Shops and Plug and Play stores are also viable options. Several online retailers have been investing their time and money into this concept. It allows them to showcase their products for a limited time and it also gives landlords the opportunity to make more money from their units by converting them into smaller areas.
There are also the chain stores that have yet to make the move online. For instance, Primark has so far refused to have an online presence, meaning that their physical presence on the High Street remains.
Empty stores create a fantastic opportunity for property developers. The UK government has shown a willingness to relax planning permission laws making it easier for property developers to purchase empty stores and repurpose them into residential buildings. Not only does this provide additional housing which helps the much-publicised housing shortage that the UK is currently facing, but the regeneration will in fact help the local High Streets as there will be an increase in footfall.
Whatever the future may be, we think the British High Street is here to stay. Going forward, it may look slightly different to what it once did, perhaps becoming more bespoke, but it will remain a centre for the local community.
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